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News, The IT Philosopher

9/11 and Communication Technology.

9/11/2001 – a sobering memory. This article from Wired.com is an interesting look back on the communication technology available at the time (Note: the article makes some political statements which I neither endorse nor condemn – the tech aspects are the good reading).

The web was still in its awkward adolescence, AOL the world’s dominant homepage, MSNBC still a partnership between Microsoft and NBC. (Do most viewers today even remember that the “MS” once referred to Microsoft?) News websites slowed to a crawl under the heavy traffic loads, and so the go-to choice was television…

I was continually struck in my research by how few alternative sources of information many people had—even those close to the attacks and those seemingly at the epicenter of national leadership. For the entourage traveling with President Bush in Sarasota, Florida, the cutting-edge communication tool that provided the first information about the attacks was a pager.

As White House press secretary Ari Fleischer recalled, “I had this high-tech pager on my belt—it was two-way, in that you could send back one of like 14 preprogrammed responses. For the day, it was pretty fancy-fancy stuff. As we were driving to the first stop for the day, I got a page from Brian Bravo, who put together the White House news clips.” Bravo’s page read, simply, “A plane has hit the World Trade Center.”

The author explores an interesting idea near the end of the article: how would today’s technology have changed the way we expressed our reactions to 9/11 after the attack?

Today, there would be Facebook Live video, tweets, and Instagram posts from the streets below, from people caught in the impact zones, and most likely from victims trapped above the crash zones in the World Trade Centers—perhaps even from aboard the hijacked planes themselves. We would know intimately the sights and sounds that those trapped amid the day’s horrors experienced in their final moments and would be bombarded by the tragic images of people jumping or falling from the World Trade Center.

We would see what it was like to have been inside the burning Pentagon as an inferno spread. There would have been live images and videos nearly instantly from the field outside Shanksville where Flight 93 crashed, those first near the scene—which, in 2001 in Shanksville, were workers from a nearby scrapyard and two coal truck drivers who saw the plane crash as they drove down an adjacent road—would have had in their pockets more advanced tools today than the news reporters and photographers who rushed to the scene hours later had back then. (After all, it’s not uncommon now to have video from inside mass shootings or aviation accidents.)

The whole article can be found here:

https://www.wired.com/story/pagers-pay-phones-and-dialup-how-we-communicated-on-911/

 

 

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Austin Thomé

Austin Thomé

Writer, enthusiastic IT Professional, expert coffee drinker, and website proprietor.

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